By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
It?s difficult to make changes when your current product is the best-selling model of the hottest automotive product category, but Honda engineers and planners went ?damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead? producing a fully redesigned and reengineered compact sport utility.
They did not go off on any wild tangents en-route, they were focused, loaded with customer research and a had keen knowledge of where the market was going. The result is the 2017 Honda CR-V ? Generation Five of the best-selling SUV in America. During the past 20 years Honda has put more than 4 million CR-Vs on to American roads and we think that number will be climbing quickly.
With each generation, the CR-V has grown a bit and matured ultimately into this latest styling, which also gives customers more interior room and a step up in quality.
Most significant of the Honda CR-V changes are under the hood where Honda is starting to use turbocharging to maximize performance and fuel economy. There?s still a four-cylinder naturally aspirated 184-hp 2.4-liter engine in the base LX model, but the rest of the lineup gets turbocharging in the form of a 190-hp 1.5-liter DOHC four-cylinder.
It?s not a big jump up in horsepower, and the torque is one ft.lb. less than the 2.4-liter, but the turbo is about a second quicker in a 0 to 60 mph acceleration time (7.5 seconds). There is no manual transmission available. Both engines are paired with to a CVT (continuously variable transmission) but this one feels like it?s shifting more like a traditional geared automatic. It gives the driver better control and it doesn?t feel as mushy as some CVTs. When the throttle is floored, the special Honda G-design shift logic produces a more immediate acceleration but with no kick-down, rather there is an imperceptible changing of gears.
Sharper lines and a more assertive look highlight the fifth-generation CR-V exterior changes. Wider fenders, a wing-shaped LED daytime running light array, longer hood and increased wheel base all contribute to the more muscular look. The Touring trim models even boasts signature Honda LED headlights and a Honda first Active Shutter Grille system to lower the drag.
In the rear, CR-V gets the latest Hands-Free Access Tailgate, which opens by kicking a foot under the rear bumper to activate a sensor under the tailgate. We like the idea of automatic opening lift gates, but are hesitant about a foot activated system. It usually requires the person opening the liftgate to stand there, often off balance, with their arms filled with bags or children. We think the system that opens by proximity is safer.
Honda has stepped up their game on the new CR-V interior. Although always nicely appointed previously, the new version has a much more sophisticated look. The controls have a positive, quality feel and are well -placed and easy to use. The instrument panel has a unique digital design with a sweeping horizonal tachometer above a large digital speedometer. It?s almost retro looking, but the display screen conveys much more information than the instrument panels of American cars from the 50s and 60s. We also like the addition of an electronic parking brake.
The biggest interior improvement, in our mind, is the addition of a volume dial on the audio system. We, and most other reviewers, had whined about the previous difficult-to-use digital volume touch button. Honda fixed it — YEA ? see, they were listening.
Four trim levels (LX, EX, EX-L, and Touring) are available for the CR-V, each with standard front-wheel drive (FWD) and optional ($1,300) all-wheel drive (AWD). Pricing ranges from $24,985, including the destination charge, for the LX FWD and goes up to $34,735 for the Touring AWD. Other than some aftermarket accessories, the only option available on the Touring is 19-inch diamond cut alloy wheels that bump the price up to $36,060.
We like that Honda doesn?t play the option game. When you buy any of the already well-equipped CR-V model, other than colors, there are basically no options except the accessories, like mats, etc.
The seven-inch touchscreen displays the available new Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System? which was developed with Garmin?. The Infotainment system interfaces with both Apple CarPlay? and Android Auto? giving customers seamless integration of key smartphone features and functions, including smartphone-powered GPS navigation and voice-controlled search capabilities.
The Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System? is standard on the Touring trim and a $1,000 option on the EX-L.
Some of the key new comfort and convenience features available on the 2017 Honda CR-V include remote engine start, dual-zone climate controls, heated side mirrors, rear USB charging ports, front passenger seat with 4-way power adjustment and driver?s seat with 8-way power adjustment and 4-way power lumbar support.
Standard equipment on the three upper trim levels is Honda Sensing, which adds Road Departure Mitigation, Lane Keeping Assist, Collision Mitigation Braking, and Adaptive Cruise Control with low speed follow.
It?s easy to see why the Honda CR-V has been the top-selling SUV over the years, and the latest version should stay at the head of the pack with its better performance, fuel economy and upgraded features.